07MOSCOW644, RUSSIA: LIBERAL PARTIES STRUGGLE TO STAY IN GAME

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW644 2007-02-14 12:16 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO7479
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0644/01 0451216
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141216Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7440
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000644 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/RUS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/14/2017 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM SOCI RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA: LIBERAL PARTIES STRUGGLE TO STAY IN GAME 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns:  Reasons:  1.4 (b, d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) Political observers believe that the prospect of a 
liberal political party winning representation in the State 
Duma is slim, but statistically possible.  However, local 
efforts by ruling party officials to remove the 
liberal-minded Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko from some 
ballots in the March regional elections have raised concerns 
over the ability of these parties to compete.  Party leaders 
and other election watchers peg the removal of SPS from four 
regional elections to a combination of machinations by 
regional United Russia leaders and incompetence --or 
machinations of its own-- by the SPS leadership.  Observers 
express more concern over the exclusion of Yabloko from St. 
Petersburg, where the party is an opposition powerhouse. 
While Yabloko has appealed its exclusion to the Supreme 
Court, its party chief dismissed the prospect of fair 
elections, told us he remained open to cooperation with 
Putin's successor, vilified the Other Russia opposition, and 
urged the U.S. to "leave Russia alone."  The Ambassador will 
continue to underscore U.S. concern over the use of 
technicalities to exclude parties from the March elections 
with senior GOR officials, including in upcoming meetings 
with the Election Commissioner and President's Chairwoman for 
Human Rights.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------- 
Statistical Window of Opportunity 
--------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  The United Russia-contracted Center for Political 
Technologies (CPT) maintains that statistically there is 
still an opportunity for a liberal "democratic" party to 
cross the seven percent threshold into the Duma in December 
2007, but concedes the likelihood is slim.  CPT Deputy Boris 
Makarenko said that recent polling data reveal that the 
parameters of the Duma election remain largely the same as 
three months ago: United Russia can expect to win about 40-50 
percent, with the Communists securing 7-10 percent, 
Zhirinovskiy pulling in around seven percent (while 
capitalizing on his high popularity amid young voters, who 
enjoy his entertainment value), and the new political 
combination "Just Russia" attracting anywhere from 7-25 
percent.  Both Makarenko and ruling party spinmeister Gleb 
Pavlovskiy told us that there is still room for a 
"democratic" party to draw away some of those liberal ruling 
party voters (who constitute up to a third of United Russia's 
supporters in Moscow), who are dissatisfied with the 
government's performance.  In a slick briefing provided to 
the Kremlin on voting scenarios, Pavlovskiy labeled the 
"catastrophic" electoral outcome as one in which five parties 
broke into the Duma, including a rightist party, leaving 
United Russia with only 30 percent of the vote. 
 
3.  (C)  Makarenko spelled out scenarios that would increase 
the chance of a "liberal" win in the Duma: the unification of 
SPS and Yabloko, despite bitter personality divisions at the 
top; a decision by Yabloko to withdraw entirely from the 
race; or a strong showing by SPS in the March regional 
elections, which would add to the momentum of its 
surprisingly strong second place showing in Perm in December 
2006.  SPS Chairman Nikita Belykh and SPS leader Boris 
Nemtsov separately told us that they will make a final run at 
unification with Yabloko Chairman Grigoriy Yavlinskiy 
following the March elections, but were pessimistic he would 
compromise.  However, SPS eminence Anatoliy Chubais ruled out 
any merger, telling the Ambassador that "my best friend" 
Yavlinskiy "would not take yes for an answer" and had 
rejected unification despite SPS ceding to all of the Yabloko 
leader's terms.  SPS leaders were circumspect in predicting 
success in the December Duma elections, with Nemtsov 
predicting that SPS would fail in its bid unassisted, or 
would just reach the seven percent threshold if nudged 
forward by the Kremlin.  Political opposites, such as 
Pavlovskiy and Ekho Moskviy Editor Vennediktov, agree that 
the Kremlin -- meaning Putin -- has no objection to a liberal 
party reaching the Duma. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Being Closed by United Russia Interference? 
------------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) SPS Chairman Belykh told us that his relations with 
the Kremlin were "neutral" and downplayed speculation of a 
Presidential Administration hand in manipulating the 
registration of parties at the regional level.  However, at a 
 
MOSCOW 00000644  002 OF 003 
 
 
February 6 press conference, he explicitly traced SPS's 
inability to get on the ballot for March 11 elections in the 
Republic of Dagestan and the regions of Vologda, Pskov, 
Samara, and Tyumen to the machinations of local authorities 
in areas where the Kremlin-sponsored party United Russia (YR) 
reigns.  In his remarks, Belykh asserted: 
 
-- that in Pskov region the regional electoral commission 
found that
two SPS candidates were allegedly members of 
another party (dual membership is forbidden by law), other 
candidates had submitted "incorrectly-completed" forms and, 
allegedly, that several SPS candidates had withdrawn under 
duress; 
 
-- that the Samara regional election commission (REC) had 
disqualified the party for "errors in documentation," without 
specifying the errors (Note:  The CEC subsequently overruled 
the REC and reinstated SPS in Samara.); 
 
-- that Vologda region authorities had pressured SPS 
candidates into withdrawing; 
 
-- that Dagestan SPS representative Magomed Omarmagomedov has 
yet to be found since he disappeared in early January; 
 
-- that money submitted by SPS in lieu of signature lists had 
not been deposited in time to qualify the party for 
participation. 
 
5. (SBU) SPS has reportedly appealed to the relevant regional 
courts in all four of the five regions and Belykh has sent a 
letter urging Putin to initiate an amendment that would 
prohibit the removal of registered parties from regional 
ballots.  (Belykh allowed that SPS employees may have sent 
the deposit to the wrong bank account in Tyumen.  The party 
is investigating, he said.) 
 
6. (C) In addition to interference by local YR officials, 
Belykh traced SPS's difficulties in the five regions to the 
efforts of YR Duma deputies Aleksandr Moskalets, Andrey 
Vorobyev, and Boris Vinogradov who, he said, traveled to the 
regions in order to pressure local YR pols to remove SPS from 
the ballot. Belykh believed YR's heavy-handed behavior was 
prompted by a fear that competition from SPS and the 
recently-created "second" Kremlin party "Just Russia" could 
mean that YR would not poll as well as it had predicted.  YR 
Chairman and Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov rejected Belykh's 
allegations.  Pavlovskiy reacted cynically, telling us that 
Belykh was no newcomer to politics and engaged in many of the 
same tactics in areas where SPS had a stronger political 
structure.  Golos Director Liliya Shebanova noted 
even-handedly that SPS was very weak in the regions where it 
had been disqualified (in contrast to Yabloko's being 
stripped from the ballot in its stronghold of St. 
Petersburg), with 2003 Duma returns in the five regions below 
the party's countrywide average of four percent.  (In 2003, 
for example, SPS received only 2.1 percent of the vote in 
Tyumen, where the deposit was not paid on time this time 
around.) 
 
------------------------------ 
SPS Games; Yabloko's Grievance 
------------------------------ 
 
7. (SBU) In a February 7 conversation, SPS regional election 
campaign manager, Duma Deputy Anton Bakov, conceded that SPS 
claims were exaggerated, noting that the party had not even 
transferred the deposit necessary to qualify the party for 
the Tyumen elections.  "We didn't have enough money to pay a 
deposit everywhere," Bakov said.  Belykh's press conference 
comments about Tyumen were designed to put YR on the 
defensive and spare his cash-short party the expense of a 
campaign in a region where its chances were slight. SPS's 
efforts in Dagestan had become entangled in clan politics, 
Bakov said.  Belykh agreed, telling us: "we picked the wrong 
clan leader."  Bakov was philosophical about Omarmagomedov's 
disappearance, noting that "hundreds of people disappear 
every year in Dagestan." 
 
7. (C) Bakov insisted, however, that the intimidation by YR 
Duma deputies of their regional confederates described by 
Belykh was true.  SPS could not prove that Deputies 
Moskalets, Vorobyev, and Vinogradov had traveled to Pskov and 
Vologda but, "in provincial Russian towns everyone sees 
everything," and the deputies' presence could not be kept 
secret. 
 
SIPDIS 
 
8. (C) Bakov dismissed the appeals process.  If SPS gets 
reinstated, he said, it will be because of "Anatoliy 
Borisovich's (Chubais)" ability to cut a deal with the 
 
MOSCOW 00000644  003 OF 003 
 
 
Kremlin. 
 
9. (C) Ekho Moskvy journalist Yevgeniya Albats described 
Central Election Commissioner (CEC) Aleksandr Veshnyakov, 
whom she interviewed February 6, as sanguine about SPS's 
problems but very disturbed about the liberal-democratic 
party Yabloko's registration problems in St. Petersburg. 
Foreshadowing Veshnyakov's February 8 decision to uphold the 
exclusion of Yabloko, Albats noted that the Commissioner had 
been "fighting for his survival" (Veshnyakov's term expires 
in March and he is seeking re-appointment), and pressure may 
be brought to bear on him.  In a recent meeting with the 
Ambassador, Federation Council International Relations 
Committee Chairman Margelov, who hails from Pskov where 
Yabloko was removed from the ballot, attributed the move to 
the Governor's unhappiness over not being placed at the head 
of the United Russia party list.  The result, Margelov 
maintained, was the Governor's decision to be hard on all 
parties.  Golos Director Shebanova and CPT Makarenko agreed 
that the problems confronting Yabloko and SPS originated at 
the regional level, and were not directed by the Kremlin. 
However, they stressed that the failure of the Presidential 
Administration to not signal forcefully that the tactical 
exclusion of the rightist parties was unacceptable made it 
culpable for the violations that occurred. 
 
-------------------- 
Yabloko:  Next Steps 
-------------------- 
 
10. (C) With its appeal for reinstatement in St. Petersburg 
rejected by the CEC, Yabloko is filing a appeal to the 
Supreme Court.  According to Moscow Yabloko Press Spokeswoman 
Yevgeniya Delendorf, the court filing would be made on 
February 13.  Delendorf did not know when the Court would 
rule, but she expected that Yabloko's final petition on the 
St. Petersburg case would not be approved by the justices. 
If so, Yabloko would feature on the ballots in Komi, 
Krasnoyarsk, Murmansk, and Tomsk regions. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Yavlinskiy Defiant, but Open to GOR Partner 
------------------------------------------- 
 
11.  (C)  In a recent meeting, Yavlinskiy dismissed the 
upcoming election cycle as a cynical exercise, described his 
participation as a humanitarian gesture to his party staff 
and their families, and said that "like an old circus horse" 
his party would perform in the elections -- if only to retain 
the habits of democracy.  Yavlinskiy lashed out at the Other 
Russia opposition, arguing that they were "100 percent 
responsible" for creating Putin's Russia, since their 
accommodation of Yeltsin's undemocratic policies fatally 
compromised the development of institutions in post-Soviet 
Russia.  Venting at the collection of oppositionists under 
the Other Russia tent, Yavlinskiy called them "liars and 
thieves, who are romancing nationalists and fascists." 
Despite his denunciation of Putin, Yavlinskiy held out the 
possibility of ultimately co
mpromising with his successor, if 
there were any indications that the next Russian president 
was prepared to return to a more democratic path.  As for the 
appropriate U.S. role in encouraging democracy in Russia, 
Yavlinskiy responded that America should "leave Russia alone" 
and, alluding to Iraq and Abu Ghraib, "put its own house in 
order." 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
12.  (C)  The cumulative amendments to the electoral law make 
it easy for political parties to be excluded from 
participation on technicalities, and the developments of the 
last several weeks have underscored that regional leaders 
have sought recourse to the legislation to remove rivals from 
the ballot under dubious circumstances.  The Ambassador has 
raised this issue repeatedly in meetings with the senior GOR 
leadership and will do so again in upcoming meetings with the 
Election Commissioner and the President's Chairwoman for 
Civil Society and Human Rights, underscoring our particular 
concern over the removal of Yabloko from the St. Petersburg 
March ballot. 
BURNS

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